Noted bat sniffer and slow starter Edwin Encarnacion was up to Edwin Encarnacion things again when the White Sox opened a three-game home series against Kansas City on Friday night.
The quirky designated hitter took a whiff of the barrel of his black bat after fouling off a second-inning pitch, then did it again during the same plate appearance.
It’s an Encarnacion thing. Whether he smelled “burning wood” is uncertain, but one thing that can’t be questioned is that all games for the White Sox these days smell like victory.
Yasmani Grandal belted a towering home run to right field leading off the ninth inning against reliever Ian Kennedy, and the White Sox walked off with a 6-5 victory. Kansas City had tied the score in the top half, after Yoan Moncada drove in the go-ahead run for the White Sox in the seventh with a bases-loaded single.
The win was the White Sox’s 10th in their last 11 games, moving their record to 20-12.
“I’ve seen a different attitude defensively,” Grandal said. “The offense has taken flight, but we still got a lot of things to improve. We’re coming from last year, where defense wasn’t quite there.”
Encarnacion’s slow start in his first season with the White Sox continued, as he “whiffed” once and his 0-for-2 dropped his batting average to .177, but his seventh-inning walk was key. Encarnacion fell behind 0-2 against reliever Scott Barlow, before laying off a 3-2 slider. That loaded the bases for Moncada, who also worked the count full before pulling a single into right field, scoring Eloy Jimenez with the go-ahead run.
“My goal in that at-bat was just to drive in a run,” Moncada said through a translator.
Alex Colome, on for his seventh save to start the Kansas City ninth, surrendered a walk and single. The tying run scored when a throwing error by Jose Abreu sneaked through the legs of catcher Grandal.
Grandal’s redemption shot was the White Sox’s third homer of the game.
“Someone from the dugout called that homer,” Moncada said. “It was crazy, the celebration and the moment. It was a sensational moment for us.”
“I was going to take one shot (at a home run),” Grandal said. “If not, I was pretty much going to battle and try to get on base so that (Jose) Abreu (on-deck hitter) could come up to hit. He’s one of the hottest, if not the hottest, hitters in baseball right now.”
Rookie Luis Robert hit a solo shot in the second against Royals starter Danny Duffy, and Jimenez sent a Duffy delivery into the center-field shrubbery with Tim Anderson aboard in the fifth for his 11th of the season.
Whit Merrifield and Jorge Soler homered for Kansas City.
The White Sox entered Friday just a half-game back of first-place Minnesota and tied for second with Cleveland in the American League Central. The win moved the White Sox into a tie for first.
“I’ll let you know how I feel on Sept. 27, when the (regular) season ends,” White Sox manager Ricky Renteria said before the game. “There’s a lot of baseball to be played, and I think we’ve got to concentrate on today.”